• As the economy struggles with the lockdown, a number of state governments recently made key changes in the application of labour laws.
Key highlights about the proposed changes in the states:
• The most significant changes were announced by three BJP-ruled states — UP, MP and Gujarat.
• But several other states, ruled by the Congress (Rajasthan and Punjab) as well as BJD-ruled Odisha, too made some changes, although smaller in scope.
• UP has made the boldest changes as it summarily suspended the application of almost all labour laws in the state for the next three years including the Minimum Wages Act.
• Some states have increased the shift duration from 8 hours to 12 hours.
• The subject of ‘Labour’ falls in the Concurrent List and there are many laws enacted by the Centre that a state cannot just brush aside. Estimates vary but there are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws.
• This will create an enabling environment for exploitation as it will not only strip the labour of its basic rights but also drive down wages. Firms can now fire all existing employees and hire them again at lower wages.
• This move will in one go turn the existing formal workers into informal workers as they would not get any social security.
• Experience of states that have relaxed labour laws in the past suggests that dismantling worker protection laws have failed to attract investments and increase employment.
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Labour law
Mains level: Highlights about the proposed Labour law changes